Sunday, November 2, 2014

Touchy Feelie

When I shop, I touch. It used to make my Mom crazy. We’d be browsing a clothing department, and I’d be running my hand along the garments hung on the racks. Mom would ask, “Do you have to touch everything?” as if it was personally offensive to her. As if I was feeling up her own clothes or something.

My response, delivered with an exasperated eyeball roll was along the lines of, “Um, yeah.” It was (and still is) my position that if it doesn’t feel nice, why would I want it? It made no sense to me that the woman who taught me to sew when I was a kid wasn’t equally interested in exploring the drape and touch of manufactured clothing.

I like the texture and feel of things. The heat of summer beach sand and prickle of sun-dried seaweed. The softness of flour. The silkiness of warm water. The scaliness of rows of sequins. The mild abrasiveness of fine grain sand paper.

And there are things I don’t like the feel of, like vinyl tablecloths sticking to my elbows which shouldn’t even be on the table. I itch recalling the burlap pants made for the Johnny Appleseed costume representing my heritage for a beauty pageant in my 20s. Why did I think Johnny Appleseed wore burlap pants, anyway? Maybe it was inspired by the ridiculous Disney fabrication of him also wearing a saucepan on his head. It was definitely rooted in our family (apple?) tree, shared via his mother, Elizabeth Simonds Chapman.

Somewhere along the timeline of my days, I became a fabric snob. Cashmere sweaters. Merino wool sweaters and 100% virgin wool pants. Fine silk blouses and dresses and skirts that skim the body and flutter with movement. It may have been cultivated in college when I worked in a retail store selling top quality brands, which I could buy at cost. My textile snobbery was soon accessorized with a bold disdain for cheap prickly wool and sweat-inducing acrylics.

Exposure to top brands taught me the quality differences between lined, virgin wool pants and skirts and their cheap-blend, unlined sisters that made my legs itch and required wearing pantyhose, which in turn made the pants cling with static in all the wrong places. (Is there a ‘right’ place for static cling?) School girl acrylic sweaters looked nice the first time worn, but the subsequent sweating and little fabric balls weren’t part of my style statement.

For a while, polyester became a vile curse word with its petroleum based, heat-trapping, sweat-inducing properties. Sure, it doesn’t shrink, but at what cost? In high school, I once set the iron too hot and burned the vest of the navy blue, three piece polyester suit I got for Easter. The edges of the perfect iron-shaped hole melted to a hard crust. Unlike a tear that could be stitched, or knee scuff in my best jeans that might be covered with ball point pen, there was no repairing this mistake.  And it delivered nightmares of polyester garments grafted to my skin after passing too close to a candle or a bonfire.

My history of touching fabric developed an acuity for visual recognition which is useful. I can power shop a thrift store, ferreting out merino wool, cashmere, silk, and linen items in a flash. And in my current part-time gig in retail I am actually paid to touch things! Ok, really I am paid to fold and hang things and return them to the sales floor, but I can’t exactly do that without touching them, can I? If you see some weird lady fondling the cashmere sweaters or stroking the sequin tops, it’s probably me. Come say hello. I’ll gladly take you on a tactile tour of the nicest feeling goods.


  1. Hey there, I found you via the NaBloPoMo blogroll.

    I'm a touch-er, too. :) I want to know if this texture is something I need in my life, before considering it for other reasons, like the design is cute or it might be flattering on.

    As part of NaBloPoMo I try to comment on as many participating blogs as I can, and I add participating blogs to my feed reader.

    So I'm just dropping by to let you know I've added your blog to my feedreader, I'm reading you loud and clear, I have a link up going at my place so my readers can find participating blogs which you are more than welcome to add your blog link to.

    Looking forward to seeing your posts, and you'll likely see me drop by again during November.

    Happy NaBloPoMo to you!

  2. Thanks for reading, adding, and commenting! =)